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No pun in today’s title.  A double meaning, maybe.  But no pun.

Remember, back in February, when I showed you how we convert the kids’ play room to a guest room?  That’s not quite all of it.

There’s something we’ve started hanging up in there to make our guests feel a little more special.

1 ~ Use an old manila folder to create a diamond-shaped template.  Diamonds folded in half, of course, make triangles.  Trace the diamonds onto newspaper.  Make sure you’ve already read the newspaper, if you want to, because it’s going to get ruined.

2 ~ Water down acrylic paints just a bit, so the newsprint will show through.  Be sure to keep warm colors separated from cool to prevent muddiness.  Notice that I gave Nicolas all the reds, oranges, and yellows, and Kalen had the greens, blues, and purples.

3 ~ Paint!  Go hog wild.  Go outside the lines!  It’s abstract!  It’s fun!

4 ~ While the paint is drying, cut out letters that will fit on the folded triangles.  I wanted to print perfect letters in a pretty font from my computer but decided to embrace the child-like, handmade look of it all.  I hand-drew the letters on construction paper with Sharpie and cut them out.  W’s and M’s are particularly difficult; just thought you deserved fair warning.

5 ~ Choose a string/ribbon/something-like-that to hold all your triangles.  I found some red paper twine in my stash and braided it with raffia.  Cut the [dry] diamonds out, fold them over and glue them around the s/r/s-l-t.  Reinforce the top with a staple, if you’re concerned they might slide around a bit.

6 ~ Attach the letters.

7 ~ Hang.  You know all those looooong plastic twist ties that hold toys in their packaging and generally make birthdays and Christmas morning so frustrating?  Jason’s always insisted on keeping them and storing them out with the hardware in the garage.  I cannot tell you how often they’ve come in handy.  I use two to attach the bunting the curtain rod.  The hardware’s a little much for a paper banner, but I might get curtains in there someday, too.  Maybe.

It was a fun, free project that took us only an hour or so one afternoon.  Folded up, it fits nicely in the drawer with the guest room alarm clock.  Unfolded and hung, it shows our guests how happy we are to have them.

Happy Birthday to my little big guy!

We had Lego masks to color

Lego bricks with which to build

A Lego guy to beat up*

And a Lego Guy to munch upon

It seems there are a lot of Lego minifigs missing heads somewhere.

I hope they know they lost them for a good cause.  The party was a roaring success!

*Pinata tutorial coming one of these days!

It’s the last day of school.

How does one fully tell a teacher how much they’ve meant and how much one appreciates them?  I don’t think it’s possible.

Anyway, we did a little something for the boys’ teachers, and a little bit for some other folks, too.

For Kalen’s teacher, who is so cute and sweet, and so into those first graders, something incorporating some of her favorite book characters.  She loves those kids, it’s obvious, and she’s given them a great kick-start to their school careers.

The buttons are magnets.  A little E6000 and some inexpensive magnets from Ben Franklin turned spare buttons from my button box into cute memo holders.

We did gift cards for Nicolas’s teacher and some of their specials teachers (PE, Music/Choir).  Nicolas’s resource teacher got a very cute book, inspired by the Haiku work they did together.

I felt we couldn’t end the year without thanking the office staff and our crossing guard, too.  You know the office staff are the ones who keep the school running.  And our crossing guard is out there in ALL weather, dancing along to the music blaring from her iPod and speakers, which she’s rigged to hang off of a light pole by the cross walk.  In the rain, the speaker system has its own plastic covering, so she can keep the music going.

I found these little plants at a local nursery – can’t remember what they’re called.  It starts with a ‘J’.  The faces were easy – a little white acrylic paint and some Sharpie action once the paint dried.  We wrote a quick “thank you” on the backside of the pots.  Cheap, cute, and fun.  And long-lasting.

And last but not least, for the principal.

Fabric + pinking shears for the base.  The sign is mounted on a leftover stick from the bamboo place mats I used for this project.  And Jason wonders why I keep so many leftovers from my crafting projects.  Every bit eventually comes in handy!

Well, I think we’re nearly the last school system to get out this year.  Summer is upon us!  The weather hasn’t quite figured that out yet, but I’m sure it will catch up.  Happy Summer, everyone!

1. Determine a need.  Or want.  Doesn’t really matter.  Ahem.  So, you’ve decided to make an afghan!

2. This is tricky, either (a) choose your yarn, or (b) choose your pattern.  In this instance, I went with pattern choice first.  I’ve had this book

for nearly ten years.  And I hadn’t made a single afghan out of it.  There are some pretty cool ones in there.

3. If you chose your pattern first, now find yarn.  Or vice versa.  I went with an acrylic yarn.  This is a comfort gift for a family in very sad circumstances, and I would hate to send an afghan along with care instruction in this situation.  (Can you imagine?  “I’ve been thinking of you in your time of need, so I made this for you.  Make sure you hand wash it and lay it flat to dry, okay?”  Yikes.)  Someday, enough superwash wool for a single afghan will be in my budget, but for now, it’s not.  This afghan is warm and cozy, AND it can be put in the washer and dryer.

So there.

4. Crochet.  Crochet.  When you run out of one color, drive like a bat out of hell to the craft store or yarn shop and pray they have more yarn of the same dye lot.  And crochet some more.  (Or, if you prefer, knit.  Knit.  Aaaaand…you get the picture.)

5. Wash.  Block.  Okay, okay, I know most of you fiber folks are saying, “You don’t block acrylic, Aimee,” and rolling your eyes.

But here’s the thing: I do.  For two reasons.  One, it helps make the finished item straight and square, which is always nice when you’re giving a gift.  Two, I always find after washing acrylic items that I end up with a bunch of these,

because acrylic doesn’t splice.  Yep, little ends that had been woven in sometimes pop out the first time it’s washed.  I’d hate for the gift recipient to find these after throwing it in the washing machine for the first time.  I had over twenty of these to snip on this afghan.  Tacky.

6. Take photos!  Document your work!  You’ll enjoy looking back on it.  Trust me.

That’s it!  Congrats!  If you’ve made the afghan for yourself, snuggle up.  If not, wrap it up and gift it or ship it.  This guy’s in the mail right now.

Happy May!  I know, I said I’d see you after the afghan’s done, and it certainly isn’t, but yesterday was the 12th.  You know what that means…

8:44 am – Heading out to school.  A few minutes late.  And we still had to go back for something.  Good thing I have extra time built in with our 8:40 departure time.

1:38 pm – Bits of the aforementioned afghan.  It’s coming together!  (See below)

1:44 pm – Calling to schedule my first physical therapy appointment.  It’s only thirteen years overdue.

4:15 pm – Homework time.  Exciting spelling words.

5:08 pm – Since the boys don’t have portable gaming systems, they take books in the car.  We gave Nicolas this one for his tenth birthday.  The verdict: “So far, it’s good.”  Goblet of Fire is hiding behind it.

5:28 pm – In the waiting room prior to Nicolas’s occupational therapy appointment.  It’s a fun waiting room.

5:46 pm – Gorgeous afternoon, so I dragged Kalen out for a jaunt around the block while Nicolas was inside.  Neither of us was dressed appropriately.  Thankfully, it was a small block.

6:22 pm – Back inside to wait.  They have an assortment of donated books in the waiting room.  I’m looking forward to finishing this one on days like this when I remember my crocheting but forget the instructions.  (Doh!)

6:39 pm – Winter’s over.  Methinks it’s time for a pedicure.  (My new flip-flops are supposed to tone my legs and rear end.  That’s an awful lot to ask of these cute & comfy shoes!)

7:07 pm – Choosing to counteract whatever toning the flip-flops are doing with a little Teriyaki takeout.  Num Yummy.

7:10 pm – My Mothers Day presents are getting a lot of play time in the car.  Unexpected benefit: the boys are requesting Defying Gravity every time we get in, so I get to hear Chris Colfer’s glorious voice over and over.

7:51 pm – The afghan!  There’s another row on it as of this morning.  Several more to go.

12 of 12 is Chad‘s baby, and 2010 is the last year for it!  *sniff* Go check out other 12ers here.

Today’s the big day!  The $5 Challenge is live at Lindsay’s!  (Click the glue gun graphic to go see all the wonderful projects.)

Earlier this month, I posted a tutorial for bamboo vases, and after using them for three weeks, I have to say I’m still in love with them.  This week, I finally got started on my second project.

Here’s the second half of my haul from the dollar store:

-One small oval serving tray
-One set of four small bowls
-Two bags of decorative “accent gems” – a nod to the current decor trend of teals and aquas
-One resin birdie on branch

Items on hand that I used: Spray paint, spray poly, and a bag of tea lights.

Yesterday, while the weather was beautiful, I took the tray and bird outside to my high-tech painting booth (*cough* *cough*) and gave them each a couple of coats of paint & poly.  (I wanted a glossier finish than the paint alone would give.  I also planned to put things on the tray, so hopefully the poly will protect the paint from scratches.)

I went in wishing I had a brighter white paint for this project, but I only had Heirloom White on hand.  It always goes on creamier than I want it, but now that it’s dry, I’m pretty happy with it.

Learn from my mistake – prime the bird.  I used way too much of the precious Heirloom White trying to cover up his darker feathers and the branch.  (Also, if you come over to my house, don’t look underneath his tail.  I kind of missed a bit.  Shh.)

After they’d spent a couple of hours basking in the sunshine, I brought them inside to cure overnight.

This morning, it was time to play.  It did not go quite as planned.  My original thought was pebbles on tray, bowls amongst pebbles, tea lights in bowls.  I didn’t like it, so I started messing with it.  (That’s how the pros do it, I promise!  Mess around with it until you like it!)

Hmm.  Seems I didn’t need the bowls after all.  Okay, so it’s a $4 project!  If you have clear cup tea lights on hand, I think it would be even prettier.  I’m fresh out.

And there you have it – a $4 candle arrangement, suitable for end tables, very wide mantles, breakfast bars, and kitchen tables.*

P.S. I’m also linking this up to the Frugal Friday Linky Party over at The Shabby Nest.  Have fun looking through those projects, too!

*This isn’t the steadiest candle arrangement in the world…As with all candles, please don’t put this anywhere a child or animal could disrupt it and get burned or spread the flames.  And, of course, don’t leave it unattended!  You knew that, right?

So, Lindsay has thrown down the gauntlet and wants to know what attractive home decor items we can make with $5 of materials from the dollar store.  My trip to Dollar Tree after she posted last week netted me materials for two different projects.  (Here’s the second one!)

I was inspired to make vases the instant I saw these  colorful bamboo place mats.  I spent about ten minutes playing with the glassware at the store to make sure I could make the number of vases I wanted with only $5 worth of stuff.

I came home with this:

-Three large sugar shakers (at least that’s what they’re labeled – I think they look more like Parmesan cheese shakers)
-Two bamboo placemats

Yesterday, I gathered my tools:

-Hot glue gun (with extra glue) – plug it in before you start cutting
-Craft knife
-Self-healing mat (um, you might want to have yours right-side up)
-Rubber bands (not shown)
-Silver Sharpie (not shown – I chose silver rather than black, so any marks left on the bamboo wouldn’t be too obvious)

I began by setting the shakers’ tops aside (they might come in handy for another project someday, right?) and wrapping a mat around one of the shakers.  I then cut the mat to just fit around the shaker.

I figured out pretty quickly that you’ll want to secure the end pieces of the mat immediately with some hot glue in a couple of places, to keep it from falling apart.  Once the strings are cut, the bamboo sticks will pop off and scatter like mad.

I then applied hot glue to the mat and carefully wrapped it around the shaker, being sure to line the bottom edge of the shaker up with the bottom edge of the mat, and secured it with rubber bands.

My plan was to come up with three vases of different heights.  Here’s where I spent my time in the dollar store: making sure that I could get two shorter vases out of one place mat.

The manufacturers of the “sugar” shakers were quite helpful and made them exactly 5 inches high.  So, I measured and drew a line 5″ from the edge of the mat with my silver Sharpie.  I scored it a couple of times with the craft knife (I put a fresh blade in first!) before cutting it with my scissors.  The scoring helped keep my scissors on track, and I ended up with a pretty straight cut.  I cut and applied the two pieces of mat to their shakers and set them to dry/cool while I hit the yard for some appropriately springlike blooms.

Doesn’t forsythia scream “Spring is coming!!”?  It reminds me of my parents’ yard in Georgia.  By the time I had the stems de-budded, the vases were all ready for some water, flowers, and a photo shoot.

I have got to learn to use the manual settings on my camera…

Don’t they frame the boys nicely?  I’m thrilled with my new $5 set of vases.  It occurs to me that they might make nice tea light holders, too.  I’ll give that a try with the forsythia dies and let you all know how it works out.

So how about you?  Are you up for Lindsay’s challenge?

A little math:

4 button-down shirts + 2 fat quarters + 1 pillow case = quilt top

1 old bath sheet + 1 piece of baby flannel on hand from the days of making crochet-edged baby blankets = quilt layers

Pre-made binding from Jo-Ann + Mom visiting = quickly-bound quilt (thanks, Mom!)

Quilt top + quilt layers + binding = sturdy baby quilt to be auctioned off for the elementary school

It has been many, many years since I’ve attempted it.  At least thirteen, if I remember correctly.

The proper tools make all the difference in the world.  I got these Ginghers for Christmas when I was in college.  My then-new-boyfriend-now-husband did not understand why I flipped out over a pair of scissors.  He has since learned their cost and seen the light.

While I love watching a quilt top come together, I hate, hate, hate the finishing – quilting and binding.  Hence the piece-and-quilt-at-the-same-time approach I took with this one.  I needed something quick for a silent auction at the boys’ school.

You can make a quilt with what you have on hand.  I didn’t have any batting.  Only two of the fabrics here were bought at a store; I got them from Mom’s stash years ago.  The “batting” is a huge, old bath towel I’ve had in my fabric stash for a while.  The remaining fabrics are old shirts and a pillow case.  This is how our great-grandmothers made quilts.  Upcycling is not a new concept, but I am so glad we, as a culture, are rediscovering it.

Choosing colors for a quilt is not difficult.  My very favorite quilts are those that come together out of fabrics that don’t coordinate.  They are unexpected.  They are gorgeous.  When I worked at a quilt shop in college, women would agonize for hours – literally! – trying to find fabrics that “went together.”  I encourage you to ignore it.  Grab fabrics you think look horrible together.  Make a quilt.  You will be surprised.

Quilts should be used.  Yes, quilts are art, but they are art with a purpose.  Just like books should be cracked open and read, quilts should be scrunched up, cuddled with, draped over chairs to make forts, sneezed upon, dragged around, and thrown in the washing machine.  (Of course, this doesn’t apply to quilts meant to be wall art – my mother has made some incredible ones.)  My point is, if someone gives you or your child a beautiful, hand-made quilt, don’t be afraid to ‘mess it up.’  It was made with love and meant to be used.  Use it!

The quilts that are used daily in our living room ~ from top to bottom:

Baby Quilt made for Jason by his great-grandmother
Baby Quilt made for me by my great-grandmother
Baby Quilt made for Nicolas by my mom
Lap Quilt I made Jason for our 18-month anniversary when we were dating
Baby Quilt made for Kalen by my mom
Quillow Mom and I made together when I was a young teen

A little something for the boys…clipboards + scrapbooking paper + double sided tape.  Two hooks in the wall.  A place in the kitchen to hang homework and reading records.  A gift of less stress at homework time.

(And some stickers and chocolate, of course.)

My boys

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